A feeling of rage, agony and injustice is sweeping across the United States again after the police callously murdered an African-American, George Floyd, in Minneapolis on Monday. Floyd, 46, died horribly in the hands of white police officers. Though it is all painfully familiar, his killing is atrocious, perpetrated by cruel officers blinded by racial hatred. Another unjust extrajudicial waste of life in a long list of heinous police killings, it has inflamed tensions and prompted solidarity protests by individuals and activists across the US. Floyd’s cold-blooded slaughter speaks of the ingrained racist and discriminatory practices of white police officers against blacks.
Historically, the police establishments in America operate in a similar fashion to terror organisations, the difference being just that one is religious and the other racial and unofficially sanctioned by white supremacist elite and the state. Thus, racist terrorism is deeply entrenched in America’s police forces. This constantly exposes America’s claim to being the leader of the free world as a farce.
Not that Floyd deserved to die so tragically in a country that prides itself on being the bastion of democracy. He was viciously attacked by four white officers. One of them, Derek Chauvin, the officer who held Floyd on the ground, was belatedly arrested on Friday and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. In a viral online video of the incident, he pinned the victim’s neck down with his knee for nine minutes. Floyd pleaded desperately for his life, but the American racist terrorist police officer would not budge. The victim’s last words vividly summed up his woe: “I can’t breathe…please stop,” he grimly pleaded. The officer did not, until Floyd went limp — and died.
But it is not Floyd alone that cannot breathe again forever, the American society is suffocating almost all African-Americans. What is left to be seen is how the oppressed people will assert their inalienable right, which states, “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness….”
After this horrible incident, America should examine critically whether it still qualifies to be called a leading democracy and a free society. Philonese Floyd, the bereaved sibling, sobbed, “Everybody has a lot of pain right now, that’s why this is happening. I’m tired of seeing black people dying.”
The right-thinking world is tired, too. Floyd’s murder is numbingly similar to a string of other killings of Black men by police. His death brings back memories of the murder of Eric Garner by white officers in July 2014 in New York. Garner was similarly choked to death during his arrest. He, also, repeatedly uttered the plaintive cry, “I can’t breathe.” Sadly, the officer who choked Garner, Daniel Pantaleo, was never charged in his death. He was dismissed in 2019 after being found guilty in a disciplinary trial of using a chokehold.
More than in any other advanced democracy, the police in America have a bloody history of violent killings of innocent people. “Another unarmed black man has died at the hands of police. When will it end?” The Washington Post asked. It will end when the rest of the world begins to see and relate with the US for what it is: a police and racist state because its cops get away with murder. Vox News argues that American police shoot and kill far more people than their peers in other countries. Yet, the country continues to claim the title of leader of the free world.
In the United Kingdom, Japan and Germany, police officers might go an entire year without killing more than a dozen people or even anyone at all. The Washington Post says police killed 1,099 people last year in the US, according to Mapping Police Violence. African-Americans represented 24 per cent of those who died, nearly twice their proportion of the population. Only 13 per cent of the population are blacks. There were only 27 days in 2019 that the police did not kill someone, Mapping Violence says.
According to The Washington Post, 963 people were killed by police in 2016 and 852 people in 2018. Blacks constituted the highest percentage of victims, followed by Native Americans and Latinos. A study says young black men are “2.5 times more likely than white men and boys to die during an encounter with police.” More than cancer, HIV, suicide, heart disease and pneumonia, racist police killing is the leading cause of death among African-Americans. High profile victims include Michael Brown, Garner, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray and Trayvon Martin. In 2014, an unarmed Brown, then 18, was shot 12 times by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. In March, police shot Breonna Taylor, 26, eight times in her bedroom after officers raided a wrong address in Kentucky.
Even with all of this, the American state cleverly shields its terrorist police from scrutiny. According to The Economist, the doctrine of “qualified immunity” too often gives police miscreants a free pass. This is based on the Supreme Court ruling in 1967 that public officials who commit “good faith” rights violations are entitled to “qualified immunity,” intended to shield them against frivolous lawsuits. The Guardian of London reports that a new US government programme to count killings by police, which draws on data collected by the newspaper, has recorded a sharply higher number of deaths than previous official efforts. It recorded 270 homicides by officers in three months in 2014. The FBI said earlier in 2015 that it counted just 442 in all.
The black population has an unfinished business. As the racist police killings persist, it provoked a group to establish #BlackLivesMatter movement in 2013. To date, the movement has clocked 2,835 Black Lives Matter protests across America. The reality of American existence is that white supremacists use terrorism to impose their domination. They should be resisted by all means.
In a way, America’s legal environment contributes to the police culture of discrimination against minorities. For all their killings, the police are not being held accountable, often defended by the rabid political class that sees nothing wrong in this divisive issue. On several occasions, the guilty officers escape with light sentencing; others are not tried, just dismissed. This is unjust. That society is just pretending to be open, democratic and free. It is fascist!
These dastardly killings and harassment of blacks point to deep-seated racism against blacks by the whites. They expose the US for what it is: it does not practise the liberty it preaches and holds other countries, especially in Africa and Asia, to account for. The Atlantic, a journal, says the conviction of police officers in fatal shootings is extremely rare, even when the evidence seems strong. The first trial of Michael Slager, the North Charleston, South Carolina, police officer who killed (Walter) Scott, resulted in a hung jury even though video clearly showed him shooting Scott in the back and then moving evidence at the scene, The Atlantic avers. So also was the shooting to death of Philando at the hands of a police officer in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. Oscar Grant, without any cause, was shot in the back, execution-style by a white police just like ISIS would. The Human Rights Watch says police shoot at unarmed people. They shoot people in the back as they are fleeing. They execute people who have been detained with a bullet to the head. Boko Haram could not have been more brutal. It all reflects America’s systemic racism.
The rest of the world should hold the US accountable for its heinous crimes against black people and other minorities. The legendary civil rights activist, Martin Luther King Jr., once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Jesse Jackson, a civil rights leader, adds, “Racism is immoral, it is a sin. Racism is unscientific. It suggests that there are superior and inferior people based upon genetics … Because it is immoral and unscientific, and a threat to humanity, racial discrimination must be made illegal — as a deterrent to stop racist behaviour.”
Individually and collectively, African countries should challenge America’s nasty racist terrorism on black population the way apartheid was confronted. The Australian Human Rights Commission says, “When it concerns racism, after all, very few people would be in dispute about right and wrong. With the exception of extremists, no one would wish to endorse racism; just about all of us know nasty racist behaviour when we see it.”
The battle cry of the oppressed African-Americans must resonate in all corners of the world.